Johannesburg - New legislation that could lead to massive changes in the way the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) operates is on the cards.
A ministerial committee tasked to review NSFAS was scheduled to hand in its report in December but requested a month's extension in order to finalise their recommendations on several key aspects of the scheme.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said: "The report will now be handed to me at the end of this month and we intend releasing it for public comment at the end of February."
NSFAS is a state-funded initiative formed in 2000 to assist financially needy students enter institutions of higher education. The scheme replaced Tertiary Education Funds of South Africa (TEFSA) which was formed in 1991.
In 2005, the scheme awarded R1.2 billion to financially needy students who wished to further their studies.
Nzimande said the review of NSFAS will allow increased access to university and colleges by poor but academically performing students.
"We are also aware that it's the children of the poor who are disproportionably represented amongst those who do not succeed, and who are underrepresented amongst those who excel," he said.
"Poverty and lack of access to institutions of higher learning prevented these young people from achieving their potential."
According to the minister, NSFAS has, now started a procedure whereby registration fees for qualifying students are paid directly to the institution.
"In the past students used be required to pay registration fees and that proved to be a problem for some and now they won't be required to pay anything from their pocket.
"We are determined that students from Quintile 1 schools (poor schools) who have qualified to be accepted to university must receive financial support from NSFAS," Nzimande said.
He said with the review of NSFAS, Higher Education South Africa (HESA) will be working closely with the department to identify deserving students and put in place long term systematic interventions to ensure greater access to the scheme.